First Lady Michelle Obama recently spoke to the Grocery Manufacturers Association and urged them to join the voluntary labeling campaign that the Food and Drug Administration plans to launch this fall. The First Lady spoke to the GMA at its annual Science Forum and promoted her campaign against childhood obesity, called Let’s Move! Her campaign has four major goals: giving parents the support they need to make better food choices, providing healthier food in schools, helping kids become more physically active, and making healthy, affordable food available in every part of the United States.
The First Lady encouraged the members of the GMA to “share in the responsibility.” “[W]e need you not just to tweak around the edges, but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children,” she said.
Mrs. Obama referenced a recent FDA survey which indicated that the majority of Americans rely upon food labels to help them decide what foods to buy. “But we know those labels aren’t always as helpful as they could be,” she said. “Parents shouldn’t need a magnifying glass and a calculator to make healthy choices for their kids.”
To that end, the First Lady encouraged the GMA to use “clear, consistent, front-of-the-package labels that give people the information they’ve been asking for, in a format that they understand.” She also encouraged the audience to join with the FDA, which will begin pursuing voluntary agreements from various companies in the fall regarding labeling. The First Lady also encouraged GMA members to revamp or ramp up efforts to reformulate products, particularly those aimed at kids, to decrease the amount of fat, salt, and sugar, and increase nutrients.
She also urged companies to limit advertisements for certain products that are targeted at children. “Our kids didn’t learn about the latest sweets and snack foods on their own,” she said, telling a story about daughter Sasha recently parroting a commercial for Honey Nut Cheerios. “[W]hatever we believe about personal responsibility and self-determination, I think we can all agree that it doesn’t apply to kids. . . .I’m asking you to actively promote healthy foods and healthy habits to our kids,” the First Lady said.
In a statement, Richard G. Wolford, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Del Monte Foods Company and Chairman of the GMA Board of Directors, said the industry is committed to working with the FDA and USDA “to ensure that the industry makes the best use of the front of the product label to provide clear and useful science and fact-based nutrition information to parents and other consumers.”
Why it matters: While the First Lady acknowledged in her remarks that childhood obesity can’t be solved “by passing a bunch of laws in Washington,” her multi faceted campaign focuses on labeling and advertising issues. Childhood obesity will remain in the news: In addition to Mrs. Obama’s request for clearer labels and less marketing to children, the FDA will be conducting a campaign this fall to solicit companies to voluntarily change their labels.